He loves The Doors and Kiss, but he’s got a soft spot for Celine Dion. He’s a classically trained tenor who still works a day job as a flagman at Pearson International Airport. Emilio Fina is full of contradictions, which is perhaps what makes his voice so magical. The former Canada’s Got Talent and Canada Sings! reality star’s debut album, O Sole Mio, is in stores now and features Fina singing opera classics, Neapolitan songs and Broadway megahits like “Maria” from West Side Story and “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. We had the chance to see Fina perform live during brunch at the King Edward Hotel this past Sunday, and we’d be lying if we denied getting just a tad emotional during his performance of “Bring Him Home.” Brunch isn’t too early to cry, is it? We caught up with the singer after his performance to find out about his music career and what he loves about Toronto.
Give us a snippet about you. What should people know?
I’m a classically trained tenor who works regular hours at the airport and studies and sings every moment of the day. I’m just a regular Canadian boy who loves sports and his family.
Finish this sentence: I love Toronto because…
…my family is from here, High Park is the most wonderful place to do nothing, and I love the music scene. I can walk into any local tavern or establishment and hear music of all kinds. I also love the Canadian Opera Company.
When did you first realize you had such a powerful voice?
My Mom remembers me at three or four singing along to commercials. I got picked out for a few solos in the church choir, and by 11 or 12, I started taking singing and piano lessons. I followed where my voice was leading me. I also really wanted to make it in hockey, but so does everybody.
What made you go the reality TV route?
I was on a reality show, Canada Sings!, the year prior to Canada’s Got Talent with [my colleagues from the Pearson International Airport in a group called] Airborne 11. I had a feel for it already. As soon as Canada Sings! aired, Canada’s Got Talent started auditioning, and my 14-year-old daughter started filling out an application form for me. She gave me the extra push.
You auditioned in your work clothes.
I could have dressed up in a tuxedo and just been a good singer, but I wanted to stand out and appeal to the masses. Yes, I am a trained singer, but it was gratitude to my work colleagues who also pushed me to do it.
Your coworkers sing a song with you on your album, O Sole Mio.
We competed together on Canada Sings! for charity, and we won a lot of money for Ronald McDonald House. Then I went on Canada’s Got Talent and was signed by Sony afterwards, and when we were discussing what we wanted to put on the album, Airborne 11 came up. They were jumping out of their seats. The big challenge was teaching them to sing in Italian because they’d never done it before.
Three things you can’t live without:
My family (I have four children), music and Italian sports cars.
I love Roncesvalles restaurants and pubs and taverns. I love the whole stretch.